Monthly Archives: March 2012

Starting Sowing!

It’s that time of year again, when you start rummaging through old boxes full of seed packets, draw up complex spreadsheets to work out how to work through 50 different seed packets using only one heated and one unheated propagator.

This year at least I’m not constrained by an impending holiday, so I could start things off at a reasonably sensible time. Our heated propagator is now filled with tomato, chilli and other wonders:

  • Sungold Tomato
  • Black Krim Tomato
  • Tigerella Tomao
  • Sweet Aji Chilli
  • Chocolate Habanero Chilli
  • Orange Bell Sweet Pepper
  • Black Beauty Aubergine
  • Cape Gooseberry

At the same time, some red onions (Long Red Florence) are starting out in our unheated one.

A few weeks ago we also picked up our seed potatoes; these are starting to chit, so at least for the second earlies I’ll have to sort out somewhere to plant them:

  • Yukon Gold (second early) – 4 tubers
  • Ratte (second early) – 8 tubers
  • Pentland Crown (main crop) – 21 tubers
  • Desiree (main crop) – 16 tubers

As always, these came from Ayletts, our favourite local nursery who still do their fantastic ‘pick and mix’ style seed potatoes. We filled a £3.50 bag with that lot, which in my book is excellent value.

2012 Seed Box

This year we have way too many seeds.

We bought too many last year, but didn’t get to plant many of them, we simply overestimated how much preparation the new allotment plot needed.

This year, we were only intending to buy a few, to fill the gaps, but as always, it’s hard not to be tempted to add just one more item to the shopping basket… click, "oooh that looks good", click… And then we ran the competition with Seed Parade, and that came with a gift selection of lots of seeds too!

Normally I break down all the seeds we’ve bought, and prices for each.

This time I’m just going to copy and paste in the full list of what we have in the seed box. We know we won’t grow all these in 2012, and will save some for 2013. We’re also sharing some with friends and family!

  • Aubergine – Black Beauty
  • Bean, Climbing – Borlotto
  • Bean, Climbing – Cosse Violette
  • Bean, Dwarf, French – Purple Queen
  • Beetroot – Detroit 6 Rubidus
  • Broccoli PSB – Early PSB
  • Cabbage – January King
  • Cabbage – Savoy Vertus
  • Cabbage (Chinese) – Wong Bok
  • Cape Gooseberry – Cape Gooseberry
  • Carrot – Chantenay Red Cored
  • Carrot – Cosmic Purple
  • Cauliflower – Purple Cape
  • Cauliflower – Verde Marchigiano
  • Companion – Pot Marigolds
  • Companion – Spencer Sweet Pea
  • Courgette – One ball
  • Courgette – Trieste Half White Long
  • Courgette – Tristan
  • Cucumber – Lemon
  • Cucumber – White
  • Gourd – Mixed Small Gourds
  • Herb – Chives
  • Herb – Coriander
  • Herb – English winter thyme
  • Herb – Garlic Chive
  • Herb – Greek oregano
  • Herb – Lemon Balm
  • Herb – Lemon Basil
  • Herb – Lemon Grass
  • Herb – Peppermint
  • Herb – Purple Ruffle Basil
  • Herb – Rosemary
  • Herb – Sage
  • Herb – Sweet Genovese Basil
  • Herb – Sweet Marjoram
  • Leek – Blue Solaise
  • Leek – Musselburgh
  • Lettuce – Cos Little Gem
  • Mustard – Southern Giant
  • Okra – Clemson Spineless
  • Onion – Long de Florence
  • Onion, spring – White Lisbon
  • Parsnip – Tender and True
  • Pea Mange Tout – Golden Sweet
  • Pea Normal – Hurst Greenshaft
  • Pea Sugar Snap – Sugar anne
  • Peppers – Orange Bell
  • Peppers – Sweet Aji
  • Peppers, Hot – Chocolate Habanero
  • Pumpkin – Chayenne Bush
  • Radish – French Breakfast
  • Romanesco – Otto Brino
  • Salad, Pak choi – Ivory
  • Salad, Pak choi – Red
  • Salad, Spinach – Reddy
  • Salad, Swiss chard – Rainbow Mixed
  • Strawberry – Golden Alexandria
  • Sweetcorn – Extra Tender & Sweet
  • Sweetcorn – Ovation
  • Sweetcorn – Popcorn Red Strawberry
  • Tomato – Black Cherry
  • Tomato – Black Krim
  • Tomato – Black Russian
  • Tomato – San Marzano
  • Tomato – Sungold
  • Tomato – Tigarella
  • Watermelon – Sugar Baby

Allotment Helpers and Purple Sprouting Broccoli

It’s that time of the year when we are rushing to catch up with work we really ought to have done over the autumn or winter. That means some quick heavier digging and turning over, letting the weather break down the clods a bit and then working it over more finely in preparation for sowing seeds and planting seedlings.

Gina at allotment

This weekend, a friend came to help on Sunday afternoon. The sun was shining; it really was a beautiful day.

Last year was a poor year for us, harvest wise and the combined yield from both garden and allotment was less than we’d enjoyed from the garden alone for the several years previous. There were a number of factors including weather, the added workload of having a new allotment on top of the garden and a poorly timed spring holiday which impacted seed propagating for many more weeks than it lasted.

The purple sprouting broccoli we planted in 2010 was ready for harvesting from mid-January 2011, very early indeed. So when we saw nothing much at all by the same time this year, I assumed it had failed. Very happy then, to see it starting to show growth late February and early March.

On Sunday we harvested the first florets, sharing them half half with our kind helper.

gina psb cooked
photo by Gina Navato

Gina cooked the PSB and some cauliflower florets with anchovies, pine nuts and capers, for a very simple evening meal.

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IMAG0711 IMAG0712

We did ours as a snack. It was nuked, only briefly, in the microwave (with a knob of butter and a little salt sprinkled over first). Crunchy, tasty, fresh, delicious!

If any other friends want to get some exercise of a weekend, and fancy helping, give us a shout.

Win Seeds from Seed Parade

For many years, Pete and I have been enjoying fruit and vegetables we’ve grown ourselves, gradually increasing the variety of things we’ve grown and the space given over to them, until eventually, a few years back, we gave over our entire back garden to a kitchen garden, or what we often call the home allotment.

Now we have an actual allotment too, so our seed buying has increased even more!

For me, choosing what to grow and which varieties to try is one of the most enjoyable times of the year – so full of promise and expectation.

Over the weekend, Pete and I discussed what we wanted to grow, and went through the seeds we had left from last year.

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I’ve been following Seed Parade on twitter for many months. As we wanted to buy more seeds, I tweeted them to ask about any current discounts, as they regularly have one or more of their seeds on special offer. In response, business founder Lajos Szabo got in touch, asking if I might like to run a competition for over on Kavey Eats.

Well, of course!

There are many online seed retailers to choose from. One of the reasons I am interested in Seed Parade is their commitment to keeping packaging to a minimum, using only what is necessary to ensure that your seeds arrive safely, and in good condition.

Also, they are DEFRA registered, which means that the business is regularly inspected to ensure adherence to sound environmental practices.

Handily, they stock a couple of varieties we had already decided on, and also have a nice selection of other seeds to choose from, both newer varieties and some traditional and heirloom ones.

And their prices are good. Some of the retailers I’ve looked at are charging double or more for the same seed varieties, and putting far less seeds into each packet to boot!

I have chosen a lovely basket of seeds including Sungold, Black Russian, San Marzano and Tigarella tomatoes, leeks, onions, cape gooseberries, a selection of herbs, three different beans including Cosse Violette, Borlotto and Purple Queen, Swiss Rainbow chard and Chocolate Habanero chillis.

Now it’s your turn!

black cherry tomato_thumb[3] borlottclimb_thumb[1] clim cosso_thumb[1] tom supersweet_thumb[2] choco habanero_thumb[1] c p haze_thumb[1] cuc mohican_thumb[1] g s mix_thumb[1] hot cayenne_thumb[1] on brauns_thumb[1] cauli p.c._thumb[1] sungold tomato seeds_thumb[1] leek lyon_thumb[1] tom san marzano_thumb[1] tomato tigerella_thumb[1]

WIN!

Seed Parade are offering not one but two winners their own choice of up to £25 of seeds, delivered free to any UK mainland address. That’s a lot of seeds, meaning a lot of fantastic fruit and vegetables over the coming year!

HOW TO ENTER

Visit the main competition page at Kavey Eats, and follow instructions on how to enter.

Kavey Eats/ A London Gardener received a complimentary basket of seeds from Seed Parade.